Friday, August 18, 2006

A Chat with Bill Richardson

I had a chance to talk briefly with Bill Richardson on the phone today during his visit to Wisconsin.

Richardson's resume is nothing less than outstanding. Here's a guy who served in Congress for 15 years, as US Ambassador to the UN, as US Energy Secretary, as a diplomatic envoy to places like Iraq and North Korea, and as governor in a state that went to Bush in 2004. He was also rumored to be on the short-list for VP in 2000 and 2004.

And -- to top it all off -- he can manage to get Bill O'Reilly to refer to him as "an honest guy."

Richardson has a reputation for being a very personable guy, and based on what I could tell over the phone, he is. He's very smooth with the talking points -- I imagine he's excellent on the stump, but even better face-to-face.

In our 7-8 minute conversation, we mostly discussed economic policy and energy policy, but we also delved quite a bit into Democratic politics in relation to the midterms and the 2008 presidential election.

I won't get much into the details here because those can probably be found in just about every interview Richardson gives these days and on his website.

What I want to discuss a bit more in this post is Richardson's vision. Although often characterized as centrist, my brief talk with Richardson gave me the impression he's really a populist at heart.

Richardson's a broad thinker, but also practical. For instance, on the issue of immigration, he sees it as a discussion about the "national spirit" of the country as opposed to merely an issue of compassion, economics, or law enforcement. While the outcome needs to take into consideration those finer points, it will also help shape the sense of the US as a nation, and that recognition is essential if we're going to find a fair resolution to the issue that can stand the test of time.

But where Richardson's populism really shines through is when he discusses the strategy for Democratic electoral success. Richardson sees the individual states as the best place to ground Democratic policies not only because it's strategically wise, but also because he rightly sees the states as the best place for public policy innovation.

While we have a federal government that's dominated by the GOP, twenty-two states around the country currently boast Dems in the executive office and Richardson -- as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association -- thinks that number is going to increase after November.

These twenty-two states have made impressive strides on Dem issues like stem cell research, renewable energy investments, and public finance reform. And it's these state-tested issues that can be culled together on the national level to formulate a Dem platform heading into the next two elections, as Richardson says, to make the Democratic Party "the party of innovation" and, ultimately, economic growth and competitiveness.

Richardson correctly notes that the Dems can't simply run against Bush -- they need to have an enticing and solid platform of their own, and one that, as he describes it, should be both "optimistic and patriotic."

Another strength that Richardson boasts is his foreign policy expertise. He's served as US Ambassador to the UN under Clinton, and he's also served the country in diplomatic situations on more than one occasion -- most recently in North Korea last October.

And he works this foreign policy angle in beautifully with his expertise on energy (he also served as Energy Secretary under Clinton) to posit some polished talking points on the need for energy independence in order to strengthen national security.

Richardson isn't officially announcing any plans for 2008 until after he wins reelection as New Mexico's governor this November (and the polls show that he will win), but most experts would be shocked if he didn't run. He's got the personality, the resume, and -- from what I can tell -- the message to do it.

I certainly wouldn't mind seeing him on the ticket in 2008 -- and I have a feeling the GOP would.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

August 18, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...


This is an adult swim -- you're going to need to come back to the pool later when you have something constructive to contribute.

August 19, 2006  

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